Nilüfer Yanya – Miss Universe Album Review
The young singer-songwriter from West London has found herself at the forefront of much acclaim. Her debut body of work, “Miss Universe,” is one of genre-shifting brilliance that defines what it means to be a “pop” star in our current ever-progressing day and age.
A concept album to some degree, “Miss Universe” opens with the track “WWAY Health,” an intro that stars ambient elevator music and Yanya herself acting as the modular voiceover, guiding us into this make-believe program of self-help. Speaking on personal conditions of paranoia and depression, the intro plays ever so nicely into the true first song of the album “In Your Head.” An off-the-wall pop rock anthem, “In Your Head” deals with just tha: delving deeper into Yanya’s psyche on a quite relatable level. Yanya is yearning for the type of validation she knows she can only receive from herself. Still, that paranoia of what other people are thinking lingers within us all.
Both “Paralysed” and “Angels” keep with the more rock-centric elements, while delivering some of the darker lines on the album itself with “Never felt so dead alive, there's disease” sung on “Angels.” It is within those last two words that Yanya’s voice echoes, this “disease,” sits with the listener, while playful at times, she certainly knows when to get a point across. Same sentiment goes for the albums big appeal single “Tears.”
Easily the most distinguishable of the bunch with great use of drum machine and synth production, Yanya sings “Yeah, all I really want is / Somebody to stop me / Somebody to hold me back / It gets worse if it's not you / I'll be lyin' in a pool of someone else's blood / Sayin' it's not my fault if somebody gets hurt.” It’s catchy rhythm and overall fun, panic-induced, chorus make the song a near perfect three minutes of music. If only one track was to be heard off the debut, let it be “Tears.”
After the first interlude, “Experience?” the album diverges a bit more into a jazz-esque sound. One that Yanya is certainly no stranger to. Producing early singles like “Small Crimes” back in 2016, it’s through this sound, alongside comparisons to fellow Londoner King Krule, that she started to make a name for herself. Recorded with the aptly named Jazzi Bobbi, she almost freestyles her flow over staccato guitars and Jazzi’s smooth saxophone melodies on the track “Paradise”
On “Safety Net” and “Heat Rises” Yanya serves up an 80s vibe with a theme of body and self-positivity. She frustrates her own self-doubt singing, almost half-heartedly, “Because I'm not good looking”, but quickly follows up that negativity knowing that she’ll “never be a safety net”. So, while people try to define the artist or guess where she’s going to lead, she remains comfortable in her own choices. This proved true in real life, having turned down the chance to be a part of Louis Tomlinson’s all girl pop group. Despite having no true direction at the time and only a few SoundCloud tracks out, she felt poised in her art as a soloist and not some pop group’s safety net.
A late addition to the album “Monsters Under The Bed” was first written when Yanya was all but 15 years old in her bedroom. The recording process occurred when she, alongside her producer, saw they had an extra day of studio time. Including such a song on what became a 17-track debut is certainly bold by all means considered. While it might not happen to reach the mark of the other heavyweight tracks on “Miss Universe,” its sentiment and personal connection make it a worthwhile listen. No matter what age, our feelings are true. Would any one of us be as assured as to dig up an old poem or journal and use those same words today? Perhaps we should, as Yanya gently sings in her highest voice on the album, “the feeling’s good.”
Reviewer’s Best Songs: “Tears,” “In Your Head,” “The Unordained” & “Angels”
Reviewer’s Worst Song: N/A
Matthew Dunn is a junior majoring in print journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.